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Sad Beautiful Tragic

RED (2012) | RED (Taylor's Version) [2021]

“Sad Beautiful Tragic” is a song on Taylor’s fourth studio album, RED (2012). It was written on a ukulele on Taylor’s tour bus after a show on the “Speak Now World Tour“. Taylor was reflecting on a failed relationship that was “sad, beautiful and tragic.” The re-recording of the song, “Sad Beautiful Tragic (Taylor’s Version)”, was released on November 12, 2021 on the album RED (Taylor’s Version).

Background and Recording

Taylor penned the hushed, intimate “Sad Beautiful Tragic” when she was sitting on her tour bus after a show on the “Speak Now World Tour“. She was thinking about a relationship that had ended several months prior. She explained the meaning of the song to Billboard:

«‘Sad Beautiful Tragic’ is really close to my heart. I remember it was after a show and I was on the bus thinking about this relationship that ended months and months before. The feeling wasn’t sadness and anger or those things anymore. It was wistful loss. And so I just got my guitar and I hit on the fact that I was thinking in terms of rhyming; I rhymed magic with tragic, changed a few things and ended it with what a sad beautiful tragic love affair. I wanted to tell the story in terms of a cloudy recollection of what went wrong. It’s kind of the murky gray, looking back on something you can’t change or get back.»

Taylor Swift
Taylor said that she only recorded the song once because the first take captured the emotion she felt while writing the song perfectly. She also didn’t want to add too much production to the track in order to keep the listener’s focus on the lyrics. She told Good Morning America in 2012: “I was on a tour bus that was moving and I just started playing this really haunting, sad chorus, and it was very simple, “What a sad, beautiful, tragic love affair.” It was just reflecting on something that was lost and you can’t get it back. I went home and I called Nathan Chapman and said, ‘Hey, I wrote this song. Please, please, please, can we record today?’ and, of course, he said, ‘Yes,’ and we used that original demo on the album, because it just kind of came across so pure and raw.”

Lyrical Theme

RED covers the whole spectrum of emotions. For Taylor, “Sad Beautiful Tragic” explores the feeling of “wistful loss.” She told Billboard in 2012:

«The feeling wasn't sadness and anger, or those things anymore. It was wistful loss. And so I just got my guitar and I hit on the fact that I was thinking in terms of rhyming; I rhymed magic with tragic, changed a few things and ended it with, 'What a sad, beautiful, tragic love affair.' I wanted to tell the story in terms of a cloudy recollection of what went wrong. It's kind of the murky gray, looking back on something you can't change or get back.»

Taylor Swift

Live Performances

Taylor didn’t include “Sad Beautiful Tragic” on the regular setlist for “The RED Tour” (2013-2014). However, she performed the track as the acoustic surprise song twice: the first time being on the tour’s stop in St. Paul (Minnesota) on September 8, 2013, and the second being the final show of the US leg at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville (Tennessee) on September 21, 2013.

Commercial Performance

Upon the release of RED (Taylor’s Version), “Sad Beautiful Tragic (Taylor’s Version)” debuted and peaked at No. 85 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the week ending November 26, 2021.

Taylor's Version

On August 6, 2021, Taylor announced that a re-recorded version of “Sad Beautiful Tragic”, titled “Sad Beautiful Tragic (Taylor’s Version)”, would be included on her second re-recorded album RED (Taylor’s Version), which was released on November 12, 2021, through Republic Records.

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
Long handwritten note deep in your pocket
Words, how little they mean, when you’re a little too late
I stood right by the tracks, your face in a locket
Good girls, hopeful they’ll be and long they will wait

[Chorus]
We had a beautiful magic love there
What a sad, beautiful, tragic love affair

[Verse 2]
In dreams, I meet you in warm conversation
We both wake in lonely beds, in different cities
And time is taking its sweet time erasing you
And you’ve got your demons
And darling, they all look like me

[Chorus]
‘Cause we had a beautiful magic love there
What a sad, beautiful, tragic love affair

[Bridge]
Distance, timing, breakdown, fighting
Silence, the train runs off its tracks
Kiss me, try to fix it
Could you just try to listen?
Hang up, give up, and for the life of us we can’t get back
A beautiful magic love there
What a sad, beautiful, tragic
Beautiful, tragic
Beautiful

[Chorus]
And we had a beautiful magic love there
What a sad, beautiful, tragic love affair
We had a beautiful magic love there
What a sad, beautiful, tragic love affair

General Information
AlbumsRED
RED (Taylor’s Version)
ReleasedOctober 22, 2012
Written2011
Re-ReleasedNovember 12, 2021
StudioPain in The Art (Nashville)
GenreSinger-Songwriter
Length4:44
LabelsBig Machine Records
Republic Records
SongwriterTaylor Swift
ProducersNathan Chapman (original)
Christopher Rowe
Paul Mirkovich
Taylor Swift
RED CHRONOLOGY
Holy GroundSad Beautiful TragicThe Lucky One
Hidden Message
While you were on a train
Song Artwork
Live Performance
Lyric Video
Taylor's Version
Original Audio